Chinedu Eze takes a look at some of the problems the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria contends with in its quest to meet travellers’ expectations.
Many stakeholders in the aviation industry reason that privatisation of airport infrastructure will usher in competition and make the sector more viable. Others however believe that airport management should be under the control of government for security reasons. But there is unanimous agreement that the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) should be made autonomous in order to prevent undue interferences from the government.
The reality is that FAAN is a federal government parastatal with the responsibility to build, manage and generate revenue from the nation’s 22 airports, assist privately owned airports and provide them marshallers, security and possibly fire service.
FAAN, which manages airport facilities on behalf of government was the most criticised government agency in the aviation sector.
The agency was often criticised because of decaying facilities at the airports, inadequate perimeter fencing, porous security and poor or non-existence airfield lighting at many of the airports’ runways under its management.
But FAAN has changed for the better. The change actually started in 2011 when the agency was woken up from its revelry by the then Minister of Aviation, Stella Odua, who had incredible target to remodel 22 airport terminals in three years.
The agency kicked off, striving to march the pace of the visioner, and in doing so, began to assimilate new methods and new attitudes of providing good service to air travellers.
Although when compared to other countries in Africa that have well developed and managed airports like Kenya, Ethiopia and South Africa, FAAN is lagging behind but it has certainly improved in the last four years.
Passenger facilitation and service have taken a new hue because the agency has realised that it must satisfy its customers by meeting their expectations.
Managing Director of FAAN, Sale Dunoma was the director of projects when the remodelling programme started. The objective of the programme was to modernise the airport terminals, build perimeter fencing, install runway lighting at the airports that do not have it and also to open up the airport for business in order to increase non-aeronautical revenue. Dunoma who later became the Managing Director continued with the project supervision until when the pace of work slowed down in the terminal projects. Although the Aviation Minister, Osita Chidoka has explained that the projects were not abandoned, but that due to paucity of funds, contractors are now paid as money is generated. Already, about three airports have been completed within this period.
However, many Nigerians are not happy with the slow pace of work at the airports and importers and aviation handling companies express worries everyday about the porousness of the cargo section of the Lagos airport. There is also the challenge of inadequate car parks. The international terminal of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos does not have enough parking lots that can take the number of vehicles that need parking spaces. The original car park was about six years ago was relocated because of the multi-story hospitality facility.
The present temporary car park is not well paved, not well secured, exploitative and way off the terminal that vehicles had to move passengers from the car park to the terminal. At peak hours, passengers and other airport users have to wait for long before the bus comes to pick them. Recently, the bus services seem to have been discontinued.
Late last year, Dunoma kicked off the construction of a multi-storey car park at the international terminal of the Lagos airport. The car park occupies a 9,000 square meter land area, located close to the international terminal building, expected to accommodate 5,000 cars on completion.
Dunoma said construction of the car park was necessitated by the need to minimise the inconvenience experienced by airport users as a result of inadequate parking space at the airport. It is also expected that the proximity of the new car park to the international terminal will make transportation easier for passengers.
Also, work has been progressing on the new terminals in Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt, Kano, Bayelsa and Enugu. THISDAY learnt that the new terminal in Lagos would be completed in December 2016 and that the contract for the expansion to synchronise with the old one has been awarded along with the on-going terminal construction.
When completed, the new terminal, which would be dovetailed to the old terminal, would process 13 million passengers per annum, so the old and new terminals will process about 22 million passengers per annum. With this, 1,500 passengers would be processed every
one hour and both terminals would come with 72 check-in counters. The new terminal building is designed with one finger and four avio-bridges. Under the supervision of Dunoma as director of projects, government started the building of fresh cargo terminal for the processing and export of farm produce.
According to the General Manager, Corporate Communication, FAAN, Yakubu Dati, statistics showed that between 50 to 70 per cent of the Fresh produce produced by the Nigerian farmers perish due largely to the absence of storage facility, efficient transportation system and competitive pricing. So one-stop solution lies with the Fresh produce cargo terminal, a requisite infrastructural requirement for a viable international trade.
“With fresh produce being sensitive to time and temperature, air transport is the best means of transporting these goods either domestically or internationally from ‘Farm-to-Market’. The attendant benefit is scaled-up innovation in fresh produce and boosting air cargo network. This will not only ensure sustainable food security outcomes and adequate income for our small-scale farmers, but will increase exports thereby reducing post-harvest losses.
Dati said a carefully structured collaboration between aviation and agriculture will ultimately boost air cargo trade with its value chain of creating millions of jobs especially for our youth and women.
He noted that the recent figures released by the National Bureau of Statistics attest to the fact that Nigeria has grown appreciably in recent years; from 13,891,677 passengers in 2010 to 14,899,958 passengers lifted in 2013.
“Surely this growth is not by voodoo, but outcomes of deliberate strategic transformation by the government in the sector. It is indeed a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) that the reforms are yielding positive outcomes.
“Already sixteen airports have been designated as Cargo terminals and the construction of cargo sheds and other infrastructure is on-going. The world class new International terminals under construction in Abuja, Lagos, Kano, Port Harcourt, Enugu and Bayelsa have reached advanced stages of completion. The Federal Government facilitated the construction of State airports in Akwa Ibom, Bauchi, Delta, Gombe, Delta and Jigawa States. All these are etching us closer to the vision of developing a perishable airfreight value chain in Nigeria,” Dati said.
Last Saturday, the body of another stowaway was removed from the wheel-well of a New York bound aircraft. The security operatives at the airport and the airline officials were confused about how the deceased entered and hid himself in the wheel-well. It is believed that if Aviation Security (AVSEC) and other security operatives are doing their work well, no one would have access to the airside of the airport without proper authorisation.
But Dati said, efforts are being made to screen passengers and their luggage at the entrance of the airport terminal. A new state-of-the-art body scanners and metal detectors have been installed but the major challenge the airports under FAAN is security and perimeter fencing. Most of the airports have broken down security fence and porous perimeter fencing. Ideally, no unauthorised person is expected to access the airside of any of the airports; otherwise it will amount to security breach.
As pioneer staff who has gone through so much with FAAN, Dunoma has prioritised projects that need urgent attention and that is why massive work is going on at the car park in Lagos. FAAN is also installing airfield lighting at about 13 airports to enable airlines operate late into the night and also the Managing Director started operation lighten the street to put an end to the darkness that envelope most parts of the airport premises in Lagos.
It was also under Dunoma that the six power generating plants at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport were completed and streamed, which now put an end to the regular but sporadic outage that characterised operations at the Lagos airport.